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Leslie Bonacum
Neil Allen

CCH, Knowledgepoint Provide Tools, Information To Help Employers, Hr Professionals Cope With Crisis

(RIVERWOODS, ILL. SEPTEMBER 18, 2001) - Employers around the nation affected by the recent disasters in New York and Washington, D.C., face challenges assisting employees, reestablishing business operations and managing day-to-day workplace issues, according to CCH INCORPORATED (CCH), a leading provider of human resources and employment law information. To help employers manage in a time of crisis, CCH and KnowledgePoint, a division of CCH, are providing professionals with a single source of crisis and workplace management, planning, and compensation and leave information at, Crisis Resources for HR.

The following outlines key areas affected employers may need to address. Additional information, checklists, best practices and links to other critical resources are available to employers and HR professionals at

Emergency Planning and Response: Restarting Business

There are numerous issues that confront employers after the immediate response to a disaster, and their impact extends far beyond those communities most directly affected. Across the U.S., employers shut down operations as the terrorist threat was unfolding. Meanwhile, public safety agencies and private employers in the health care and services sectors worked unceasingly in rescue and aid efforts.

How will employers address the inevitable employee compensation issues? Likely considerations include wage payment and overtime issues, as well as maximum hours provisions (note that many state laws provide for exceptions to maximum hours provisions for public safety and other personnel in the event of emergencies).

Compensation Issues

  • For employers who shut down operations: Unless there is a contractual arrangement involved, there is no federal law requirement that employers pay nonexempt employees for time not worked. Some employment agreements provide for show-up pay when employees report to work and find available no work or less than a minimum amount. This sort of pay is also termed call-in or reporting pay. Absent such an agreement or a state law so requiring, if an employee is nonexempt and is relieved of duty, then generally this is not compensable working time under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employers may, however, choose to pay their employees for this time. For exempt employees, the employer needs to continue to pay on a salary basis or risk losing exempt status for those employees.
  • State law "reporting pay" provisions: A number of state laws contain provisions involving what is variously termed show-up pay, reporting time pay, on-call pay, or call-in pay. California and New York, for example, have such provisions. Although there are state-to-state differences, essentially the laws provide that for each workday an employee is required to report for work and does report, but either is not put to work or is required to work less than half the employee's usual or scheduled day's work, the employee must be paid for a minimum number of hours' work at the employee's regular rate of pay.
  • For employees who are required to work overtime: For employers that provide cleanup services, overtime costs could be substantial. Special federal rules for figuring overtime apply to public agency law enforcement and fire protection personnel. State laws have specific overtime provisions as well. Make sure that you carefully follow your state's rules for overtime and maximum hours issues.

Leave: Managing Time Away from Work

Other considerations for employers may include how to manage military and disaster service leave and related workers' compensation issues that may arise:

  • Disaster service leave: Thirty-nine states have disaster service leave provisions that generally affect public employers. As to workers' compensation benefits, the employee is generally not considered an employee for these purposes while on such leave. Although these American Red Cross Services volunteer leave laws vary in particulars, almost all say approximately the same thing. Generally, in the event there is a disaster and the public employer has employees trained to provide disaster assistance, if the American Red Cross requests those services and the employing agency approves, trained employees are entitled to take paid leave of from 10 to 30 days to provide volunteer assistance. There are also a few volunteer services leave laws, but they differ slightly and are not related to American Red Cross service; volunteer firefighters, paramedics and telecommunication specialists may be covered in states that have such laws.
  • State and federal military leave: All states (including Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico) have laws regulating military leave. Most of these state laws include service in the National Guard as qualifying military service and apply to both public and private employment. In addition, all civilian employers are covered by the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994. USERRA provides for military leaves of absence and reemployment of eligible employees when they return from military leave. Nonfederally funded activities of state National Guard members, such as parades or work during natural disasters, are not covered by USERRA. However, leaves of absence for such activities may well be protected under state law.

Additional information is available under Crisis Resources for HR at including: Military Leave Q&A, an Employer's Guide to USERRA, Military Leave Law by State, and Request for Leave of Absence form.

Emotional Support and Workplace Tolerance

Emotions in the workplace are likely to run high in the wake of a crisis. There are important steps employers can take to help their employees cope.

Employee Support: Guidelines for Managing a Workplace Crisis

Planning is the best step prior to a crisis, but if there is no plan in place, here are basic guidelines to assist managers in handling a crisis in the workplace:

1. Immediate response: Within a fixed period of time schedule a group meeting to enable employees and others affected to deal with their feelings. Hire professional counselors and have managers facilitate.

2. Provide information and resources: Disseminate information about what has happened and what has been done and what the company will continue to do.

3. Encourage responses: Encourage participants to discuss openly what occurred. Use a question and answer period as a debriefing session.

4. Designate a spokesperson: Designate one or more employees as official company spokespersons to respond to inquiries from the media. Shield employees who are personally affected by the tragedy from the press and do not include media in these meetings.

5. Maintain contact: Consider distributing a fact sheet as necessary to curb the spread of misinformation. Include contact and resource information. Keep the media apprised of what the company is doing without revealing sensitive information about individuals affected.

6. Follow-up: Assign company representatives to visit victims' families. One representative should stay in touch with the family for the period of time necessary to assist them in processing claims, for example, and to pass along information.

7. Learn from the crisis: Prepare a plan for the future. Assess what was done well and what could have been done better., Crisis Resources for HR, also offers links to key support information and resources, including information about employee Crisis Stages and links to a national database of certified counselors and companies providing employee assistance and counseling services.

Workplace Tolerance

Encouraging tolerance is another important step to ensuring a respectful and peaceful workplace. Here are steps you can take to help:

1. Remind your workplace that discrimination and harassment because of national origin or religion is against the law. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, and retaliation for filing a complaint. National origin discrimination is defined broadly as the denial of equal employment opportunity because of an individual's (or his or her ancestor's) place of origin or because an individual has the physical, cultural or linguistic characteristics of a national origin group.

2. Stress to managers/supervisors that your organization may face legal liability for harassment. Liability for national origin or religious harassment generally follows the same rules as for sexual harassment. An employer is responsible for the conduct of its agents and supervisors where ethnic slurs and other acts amount to harassment on the basis of national origin, regardless of whether the employer knew or should have known of the occurrence. When coworkers engage in national origin harassment, an employer is responsible only if it knew or should have known of the conduct but failed to take action.

3. Explain actions that are to be avoided. Caution against the use of ethnic slurs, jokes, and other conduct relating to an individual's national origin. It is harassment when it: creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment; unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance; or otherwise adversely affects an individual's employment opportunities.

4. Communicate the expectation of respect. Isolated incidents of harassment may be not sufficiently severe so as to create a hostile work environment. Nevertheless, they are clearly inappropriate for the workplace. Employers need to stress that their workplace polices demand that all employees are treated with respect.

5. Review dress/appearance rules. Workplace restrictions on the length and/or style of facial hair and hairstyles themselves are generally considered permissible. However, employers have an affirmative duty to accommodate the religious practices and beliefs of employees and applicants unless to do so would result in undue hardship on the conduct of the business.

6. Review language policies. Employers may not require English language only for all working hours, but it may be lawful to have a more limited rule requiring that employees speak only in English at certain times. A foreign accent that interferes with an employee's ability to perform a task may constitute a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for an adverse employment decision. also offers an HR checklist on auditing your anti-harassment policy.

Prior Emergency Planning Key to Providing Employee Assistance

Every organization should also have a written emergency plan that is tested, reviewed, updated and coordinated internally and with outside agencies, such as local law enforcement. HR professionals can find comprehensive planning information and tools at, Crisis Resources for HR, including: guidance on Crisis Planning, Crisis Planning for Global Organizations, a Model Emergency Response Plan and a Model Self-Inspection Security Checklist.

About KnowledgePoint

Since 1987, KnowledgePoint (a division of CCH INCORPORATED) has been a leading developer of knowledge-based human resource management software and Internet services for the enterprise, small businesses and individual managers. KnowledgePoint products include Performance Impact, Performance Now, Policies Now, Descriptions Now and For more information, visit


CCH INCORPORATED, Riverwoods, Ill., is a leading provider of employment law information, software and e-learning for human resource professionals. CCH is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wolters Kluwer U.S. The CCH web site can be accessed at The Human Resources Group web site is at

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